Armenian law-enforcement authorities said on Friday that they are investigating a reported violent dispute in Yerevan between activists of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) and an election candidate of businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance.
A spokesman for the alliance, Vanik Elizbarian, said the candidate, Vahan Karapetian, was “ambushed” and attacked in the city’s western Ajapnyak district late on Thursday by a group of men linked to his HHK rival, Arman Sahakian. Karapetian and Sahakian are running for parliament in an electoral district encompassing Ajapnyak and nearby neighborhoods.
Sahakian, who heads the Armenian government’s Department on State Property Management, claimed that neither he nor his “teammates” were involved in the fight. He also denied that it was connected with the April 2 parliamentary elections.
A written statement released by the HHK branch in Ajapnyak claimed that Karapetian brawled with “one of his former associates” near a local HHK campaign office. It blamed the Tsarukian ally for the violence, saying that he is resorting to “provocations” in advance of his “impending defeat in Ajapnyak.”
A senior member of the Tsarukian Bloc, Vahe Enfiajian, claimed the opposite. “The Tsarukian Bloc’s approval ratings are quite high, and with such incidents and obstacles they are trying to cast a shadow over candidates representing our team,” he said.
A spokesperson for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that he has instructed the Armenian police to investigate the violent clash. The police said they are already doing that.
The Ajapnyak fight was the latest in a series of violent incidents clearly connected with the ongoing election campaign. Some of them reportedly involved loyalists of wealthy HHK candidates running in the same electoral districts.
In another incident, a 23-year-old activist of Tsarukian’s bloc was stabbed and seriously wounded in a village near Yerevan on March 1. A top Tsarukian aide said the attack was the work of men linked to a local HHK candidate.
The HHK was also blamed for even more serious pre-election violence that occurred in another village on March 14. Three local opposition supporters were attacked and seriously injured there. One of them was shot in the leg while another stabbed in the back. The ruling party denies any involvement.